What Does it Mean to Live by Faith?
As we strive to become more of a faith prepper, we know the most important thing we can do is learn to live by faith, and not just give faith lip service. After all, the single verse that changed Martin Luther’s life and led to the Reformation was Romans 1:17, which states, “The just shall live by faith.” We focus on the “just’ and “faith” aspect of this passage. But what about “live”? How do we “live by faith”?
The answer is simple. To live by faith, we have to trust our Lord in everything, in every aspect of our life, and not just in the areas we can’t seem to take care of ourselves. God is not our co-pilot or a genie in a bottle. We have to accept and live as if we truly believe what the Lord says about His Word and our relationship with Him. And when we begin to understand that relationship, from a Biblical perspective, we may find ourselves surprised at how much we have missed the mark and fallen for something our pride demands and not what the Word reveals.
Let me give you one example (we’ll look at more in the days to come).
Crucified with Christ
One of the hallmark truths of the Higher Christian Life is found in Galatians 2:20. This powerful verse says:
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
I know you are probably familiar with this passage and may have memorized it at Vacation Bible School many years ago. But often familiarity breeds contempt. And many times we fail to understand a passage because we already think we know what it says and have become comfortable with our own interpretation. This verse is no exception. But what does it actually say? And what does it mean?
Clearly, Galatians 2:20 states we have been (past tense) “crucified with Christ” and have experienced, at least spiritually, the death of our flesh. He died and, therefore, we died with Him. And He rose again and, therefore, we are “born again” (John 3:3). This is not a new truth. In fact, we affirm this every time we baptize someone. Remember what is spoken? They talk about being dead and buried with Christ (as the person is submerged into the water), and then raised to a newness of life in Him (as they are brought back up). The imagery is of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ that is now applied to us as we are “born again” in His image. Do you see Galatians 2:20 portrayed in this?
But it goes on and addresses the practical side of salvation. Since we have been “crucified with Christ” we now no longer have a life of our own, but it belongs to Christ who now lives in us. Read it carefully. Slowly. And let each word speak truth about our dependent relationship with Him.
“I have been crucified with Christ; (therefore) it is no longer I who live, (so who now lives in my place?) but Christ lives in me.”
Or, as Colossians 3:3 says so emphatically, “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” This is the perfect description of what it means to be “in Christ,” which is a phrase used in the New Testament over 85 times, so it must be an important concept for us to understand.
Christ Lives in Me
So I have died with Him, or I am now identified with His death. This is a vital concept to grasp in understanding the breadth of our salvation. And since I have died, like He died, the living part of me does not live for its own glory or purpose or benefit. No, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” The breath I take, the thoughts I think, the decisions I make, the essence of who I am in my own eyes has now died in order for a greater good to redeem and take control of what I once was.
It is called the Great Exchange. I give all that I am (broken, sinful, plagued by pride and selfishness, and unable to stand in the presence of a holy God because of my iniquity, unrighteousness, and lack of holiness), and I receive by grace, as an underserved gift, all that Christ is (holy, blameless, perfect, complete, and righteous). And now, because of this exchange and His death on the cross, which paid the penalty for my sins, I no longer fear God, but have bold access to His throne (Heb. 4:16), where I find grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness, and where God no longer holds my sins against me because when He sees me, He no longer sees my unrighteousness, but the imputed righteousness of His Son given to me (2 Cor. 5:21). When God sees me, He sees His Son.
Does it get any better than this? I think not.
But the conditions of this Great Exchange are determined by God and they are, like most things with Him, all or nothing. God does not promise to make us better. He promises to put us to death and then raise us up in the image of His Son. Let that sink in for a moment. There is nothing in our life God wants to upload into the new creation He makes in us (2 Cor. 5:17). Nothing. He starts with a clean slate, a fresh beginning. Therefore, our flesh, and all that word entails, must be put to death in order for Christ to live His life in us. Light and darkness cannot co-exist. Why? Because darkness hates the light, for light exposes its evil deeds (John 3:19-21).
The more we die to ourselves, the more He lives in us. And the more we hold on to what we want or what our flesh craves, the more we grieve the spirit (Eph. 4:30) and live a life of spiritual defeat, shame, and lukewarmness (Rev. 3:16). And there is no victory in living a life of compromise, of hedging our bet, of having a Plan B, or a lack of commitment. Heroes are not made by compromise, but by total abandonment to something greater than themselves. And for us, that something is Christ.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
So how does this play out in real life? Just like it plays out in every aspect of life, by faith and commitment. Or, as Yoda said, “You do, or you don’t do, there is no try.” Victory is all or nothing. In or out. Hot or cold, with nothing in between. That is the only way to experience victory in our spiritual life.
Let’s close by looking at the practical side of Galatians 2:20.
“and the life which I now live in the flesh (after I have been crucified with Christ and He now lives in me) I live (how) by faith in (what) the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
There is really not much more to add to what this truth already says. The life we live now, today, in the flesh, we live by faith (trust, confidence, assurance) in Christ, the Son of God. Not faith in our ability to will ourselves, by sheer determination, to do good things. Not faith in the innate goodness in our hearts, no matter what Disney might say (Jer. 17:9). And not faith that God will judge on a sliding scale and measure our good stuff against our bad stuff and be pleased that His child scored a C- on our final report card. As if He gave us the Holy Spirit to help us barely pass.
No. It is faith in Christ Jesus, the Son of God. It is faith in His promises that all (that’s you and me) who the Father gives Him will come to Him (John 6:37), and that no one can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:28-29). It’s faith in the character of God. That He is longsuffering, loving, patient and kind, and not willing for any to perish, but all to come to repentance and eternal life (2 Pet. 3:9). And faith in His Word, that it means what it says and our life should line up to its truth, and not what we conceive in our minds or what we want it to say.
And this faith cannot be in words only or simply mental assent to this truth. Faith must be acted upon. It must be exercised and lived out in real-time. And it has to be tested to grow strong. But God has not left us alone, as orphans, to live this life of faith (John 14:18). No, He has given us Himself, in the person of the Holy Spirit, to live the life of Christ in us. And we will explore the Spirit’s role in our life of faith next. So stay tuned.
Remember, “the just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17). And so can you.